I have never really taken much interest in reading poetry, which is strange because for a large part of the music I love, it is the lyrics that have grabbed me, and the lyrics I am attracted to are basically just poems, put to music. It was Folk Music that really started me paying attention to the lyrics, of course I loved the banjos, guitars, and harmonies too. Dylan was one of the first to really elevate the lyric to the status of poetry. Leonard Cohen was a published poet, who decided to put his verse to music when he saw how popular Folk Music was.
Where am I going with this, you ask.
Each morning when I paint, I do so while listening to music. I have already mentioned that lately, I have been listening to the Judy Collins “Spellbound” album. As I paint I am mostly just listening to the melodies, and not really paying much attention to the lyrics of the songs, although I do catch snippets of the lyrics.
One of the songs on the album is “Hell on Wheels”. From the snippets I picked up, Collins was a rather wild girl with a 54 Chevy, driving fast down a mountain road. There was something about a father going to call the police, but I didn’t really understand the connection. That was all that I had gleaned from listening to the song while I painted.
The other day I decided to read the lyrics to her album as I listened to the tunes. Hell on Wheels came on and when I started to read the lyrics I was shocked.
She had been drinking, got into her 54 Chevy and went tearing down a mountain road. She rounded a curve and came upon two young girls playing beside the road, and she almost hit them. Their father came yelling out of the house that he was going to call the police. The fact that she could have killed the girls haunted her all of her life, and was something she thought about it every day.
Wow, that was a lot more than I had gotten from the song while painting. Reading the lyrics to a song can really change your preconceived notions of the song. When vinyl record albums where popular, often the song lyrics where printed on the back, but they disappeared when cassette tapes and CD came out. Luckily lyrics are now readily available on the internet, and it can be really worthwhile to read them as you listen. You might be missing a whole point of the song, like I was.
I put this photo of a 1954 Chevy on the blog because not only was one mentioned in the song, but a 54 Chevy like the one in the photo, was our family car for most of my youth. It is the car I drove when I first learned to drive.
Take a look at my paintings: davidmarchant2.ca